Seriously, that's about it: Like Downton Abbey, it's set in the Edwardian Era and has an Upstairs, Downstairs storyline, but in terms of characterization, subtlety, and nuance, it's got much more in common with The Luxe. (By which I mean that Cinders and Sapphires is painted with a broader brush than Downton. Not that there's anything at all wrong with that: I read the hell out of the entire Luxe quartet.)
You'll meet Lady Ada Averley, who needs to marry well in order to save the family estate and restore her father's reputation, but who secretly dreams of studying at Oxford... with handsome Ravi Sundaresan, a young man she met on her voyage from India back home to England.
You'll meet Rose Cliffe, the daughter of the housekeeper at Somerton, Lady Ada's family home... a young woman who dreams of composing music despite her low station, and who happens to bear a striking resemblance to the Averleys.
You'll meet Lady Ava's new stepmother and her maid, both of whom bring new meaning to the term Conniving Bitchmonster From Hell. You'll meet said stepmother's three children, one of whom who is following right in her mother's Bitchmonster footsteps, and another who is desperately trying to hide a life-threatening secret.
The characters—especially the secondary ones—never really develop into three-dimensional beings, but that doesn't make their escapades any less entertaining or enjoyable. Cinders and Sapphires deals with gender and class; with identity, colonialism, and individuality; with privilege, duty, ambition, sacrifice, prejudice, and the blurring of barriers. As I said, broad brush strokes, but it's all there.
No, it's not a Serious Work of Litrachure, but Rasheed doesn't romanticize the era or the culture by ignoring the ugly or unfair bits: instead, she uses them to heighten the drama. If, like me, you like The Luxe in all of its Bathtub Book Glory—the bitchiness and the period clothing, the page-turning plot twists, the secrets and lies and romantic entanglements—then Cinders and Sapphires will totally be up your alley.
Book source: Review copy via Netgalley.